The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.
Last week I visited a sixth-grade class led by Justin Stygles in Norway, Maine. There was lots of marvelous teaching and learning going on, but what caught my eye was a short article about a football controversy. It was the week before the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots wouldn’t be in it because of their loss to the Denver Broncos. The hot topic from the New England loss a week earlier was a statement by their coach Bill Belichick, criticizing a Denver player and accusing him of an illegal hit.
I asked Justin about the article on the wall, as well as an argument anchor chart linked to the article. Justin said, “Oh, that was a fun one. I brought in three short texts the Monday after the game — one from the Boston newspaper, one from the Denver Post, and one from an impartial sports site.” He went on to explain how he had the class read all three articles to weigh in on what the correct call should be. Was the play illegal? Was the call justified? The class reviewed video of the play and studied the NFL rulebook, and students brought in other articles to support or refute claims by classmates.
“It was especially fun hearing from students who weren’t football fans,” said Justin. “At first, they said they wouldn’t be able to make a judgment call because they didn’t know the game. I told them that put them in the best position to decide, since they would be truly impartial when they read the articles, the rule, and viewed the video.” They found their status was elevated because their passion for football or prejudice for a specific team wouldn’t get in the way. Students argued their cases in writing, publishing them to the class blog, and Justin tweeted them out to the feeds of Boston and Denver sports sites. It was a week after the assignment, and everyone was still buzzing about it.
Justin’s creativity reminded me again of the power of short texts, and the talent teachers have for tapping into student interests to make literacy come alive. Short texts are a hot topic now, because they lend themselves to close reading and strategy work across the curriculum. They are our focus this week — enjoy!
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Here are three features from the archives with strategies for keeping it short.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share their Favorite Short Mentor Texts for Demonstration Lessons:
Who says units of study have to be long? Franki Sibberson has ideas for short units that impart big lessons to students:
In this video quick take, Katie Doherty explains why she finds a timer helpful in her middle school writing workshop for keeping students focused and productive:
The latest book flight from the LitforKids blog is on best friends, with suggestions for texts from preschool through adult readers on the topic:
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In this week’s video, Tony Keefer finds that the Article of the Week activity (adapted from Kelly Gallagher’s work) is a good way to integrate short shared texts into his fourth-grade literacy workshop:
Ruth Ayres confers with third grader Jade about the importance of the “collecting” phase for writers in a bonus video:
Gretchen Taylor taps into a cultural phenomenon with her seventh-grade writers in Deeper Writing: The Story Behind the Selfie:
New PD2Go: Mandy Robek guides her kindergartners through a shared writing activity to note readers’ tools. Several students contribute to a discussion about sounds, known words, and letter formation:
This video and workshop guide support Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.W.K.2: Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
That’s all for this week!